3 Ways Your Company Can Live By Its Core Values

If you are reading this, my guess is you have a pretty good idea of what core values are—the guiding principles companies are founded on. I want to push that definition further, dig into the challenges that come with actually living by our core values.

Running my company, STATLINX, has taught me a lot; maybe the most important thing I have learned is how fundamental it was to get our core values right.

But getting your core values right and living by them are two different things. I’d like to share a few guiding principles we developed that may help.

1. Focus on who you are, not who you want to be.

When we had challenges living by our core values at STATLINX, and when I see other companies struggling, it is almost always because the core values were aspirational.

In our company, core values are the filter we ask questions through — the blood that runs through our veins:

  • Dependable as the sun.
  • Make Mama proud.
  • We play for each other.
  • Knock their socks off.

A recent study from Leadership IQ found that less than 50 percent of employees feel that their company has clearly identified core values. And when they do, they are rarely embedded in the culture.

If employees do not know or understand a company’s core values, there is a good chance the company prioritized who they want to be rather than who they are.

When core values are the foundation your company is built on, and when they work well, they are like a healthy green lawn: They choke out the weeds.

The surest way to ensure healthy grass is strong, deep roots.

The tricky part is identifying those roots so we can live and breathe by them.

2. Build from your core values, up. (Hire the right people.)

We were not always all that great at hiring people who fit our culture. But, we realized pretty quickly that the best way to ensure our core values were alive and well was to talk about them constantly and hire against them.

We had 18,500 applications last year, and we hired 73 people. By the time we got to those 73 people, all we were interviewing for were values.

Our hiring process starts with a few capability assessments. Then, we emphasize a candidate’s values over experience to get a sense of whether their values align with ours.

This lengthy hiring process protects our core values and then, we maintain them by celebrating team members who live up to them.

“Dependable as the sun” and “Make Mama proud” are our most important values.

We celebrate both by asking team members to share stories that showcase how, as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, we go above and beyond to be reliable, and to point out the moments when team members made Mama proud.

Although our Core Value Awards come with a prize, I have realized it is less about the prize and more about creating a culture of authenticity where people know and live by our values.

3. Core values apply internally and externally.

When a team member becomes a team leader in our company, we give them a book called Listen Up, Leader! Spoiler alert, the message is: Everybody sees everything.

How you act and what you do is more important than what you say.

Core values may start internally, but they always find their way outside where everyone can see them.

We introduce our values first.

One of our marketing campaigns used the tagline, “Life isn’t scripted, and neither are we.” We provide a personalized approach that refuses to compromise on reliability and works hard to knock your socks off—our core values in a headline.

When it comes to customers, 63 percent of them want to buy products and services from companies that resonate with their values. A number that will keep going up as people continue to make decisions based on values.

If your core values guide every aspect of your company, they will attract like-minded people and deter everyone else. Seriously. We have ended relationships with members because our values did not align. And that is definitely something that would have made my Mama proud.

4. Bonus: Lead with your core values.

Introducing core values first is not the norm. But, it is the easiest way to let everyone know how important they are to you. Another way: philanthropy.

“We play for each other.” The people we care about, the people in our community, if there is a cause important to them, we want to promote it. That is who we are.

Many companies offer corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs that include generic philanthropic activities, which at their core do not really align with their core values.

It is one of the reasons we now take a community-based approach to philanthropy through our CSR program, STATLINX Cares, and select causes based on what matters to the team members and physicians we work with.

Core values are living, breathing things.

I want to leave you with an important lesson I learned: Once we identified what our core values were, it suddenly became pretty easy to live by them. But, that does not mean you can ignore them.

As sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, values evolve alongside us. So, check in on them every so often to make sure they still represent who you are.

Contributed to EO by Steven Showalter, an EO Connecticut member who is an EO Accelerator program instructor and member leader who has served on the EO Global Board. Steven is the CEO of STATLINX, a medical call center that optimizes the communication between healthcare providers and their patients, and a 2023 Inc. 5000 honoree. Steven’s mission is to relentlessly uplift those in his community.

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Categories: Best Practices Company Culture Entrepreneurial Journey Lessons Learned


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